April 18, 2017

The Great Resolution Debate: Is 8K the Future of Filmmaking?

This might be the year that filmmakers start noticing some gray hairs and wrinkles on their 4K cameras.

For the past three or four years, all that filmmakers and gearheads have been talking about is 4K. Every time a new camera would come out, the questions on everyone's mind would be whether or not it shot in 4K and if it did, could it do so internally. But now that it's more or less an expectation for consumers, the chatter about 4K has died down some, which makes many wonder about the higher resolution that is waiting on the horizon, when it will make it into town, and whether or not it should be welcomed.

In this video, Matt Granger discusses the evolution of video resolution, its possible future, and why filmmakers should be ready and willing to adopt 8K when it finally trickles down the market and becomes more affordable.

Whether you spend camera launch days standing in line with a fistful of hundos or quietly petting your fossilized mini-DVs, there's no doubt that technology continues, and will always continue to advance. Even if not everyone shows up to the party at the same time, they all eventually get there, whether it's the hoards of camera companies churning out 4K shooter after 4K shooter or TV manufacturers unveiling screens that can handle all of the extra resolution.

Perhaps that's the reason why last year's NAB was so—boring and responsible. Instead of rolling out a bunch of flashy new cameras, almost every gear manufacturer revealed that they'd been beefing up their current lines and putting in some serious work under the hood, which was coincidentally perfect timing given that RED unveiled their 8K Helium sensor about three months later.

Could that mean that NAB 2017 will be all about 8K? Maybe, but whether 8K is really landing this year or not, it's important to ask yourself if you're going to adopt it or stick with what you've got. Granger makes a lot of great points in the video, but in the end it's about your preferences and needs as a filmmaker.      

Your Comment

50 Comments

We should shoot everything on IMAX 15/70, 36k!!!!

April 18, 2017 at 11:48PM

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FAKE NEWS!!!!!

April 19, 2017 at 1:48AM

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Indie Guy
699

The future of video making maybe, but not filmmaking.

April 19, 2017 at 2:00AM, Edited April 19, 2:00AM

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Jason Wise
Director, underwater photographer
26

Skyfall was shot at 1080p and it looks amazing, even on a 4k monitor. But I'm sure, everything will eventually move to stupid 8k (sigh), because camera manufacturers need reasons to release new models. As it stands, the vast majority of all the 4k footage out there is watched on a 5.5" phone screen at a highly compressed bitrate of 35 mb/s and sometimes as low as 8mb/s. We are already capturing so much more data than what our displays and our networks are capable of handling. Our displays really need to catch up in their ability to render more colors and dynamic range before we start jumping to these crazy high resolutions. And our internet connections need to get faster so we don't have to discard 80% of all the information we capture.

April 19, 2017 at 3:26AM, Edited April 19, 3:26AM

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Derek Doublin
Director, Cinematographer, Large Scale Artist
227

+1

April 19, 2017 at 3:47AM

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I couldn't agree more. I wish camera manufacturers (actually just RED) released cameras with better dynamic range than bigger resolutions. 16+ dynamic stops need to be the next 4K.

April 19, 2017 at 4:29AM, Edited April 19, 4:30AM

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Sahit Anand
Director and Co-Founder of DO. Creative Labs
16

I agree with all you said but wanted to point out that Skyfall was shot in 2.8K ARRIRAW and 5K Redcode RAW, not 1080p.

April 19, 2017 at 9:48AM

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Exactly. I've never watched a movie or tv show and thought, "If only this was shot at a higher resolution."

April 19, 2017 at 12:06PM

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Sean Kenney
Event Cinematographer
221

Isn't that what people said to 720p at the time? They said the contrary. Look how great this looks.
I don't disagree that 4k is pretty great and I can't imagine seeing much difference going better, but it will. That's the name of the game. It's what makes us better.
I would much rather see better dynamic range in cameras than anything right now though.

April 19, 2017 at 4:20PM

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All valid points, so this is not to counter what you're saying, but Skyfall was shot in Arriraw for the most part, at a 2.8K resolution, and some scenes were shot in Open Gate 3.4K I believe.

April 19, 2017 at 12:33PM, Edited April 19, 12:33PM

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Skyfall always looked soft to me, like I was seeing a second hand copy of a well-shot film.

April 19, 2017 at 1:58PM

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J Robbins
410

You can watch Lawrence of Arabia on an iphone 3s all you want. But that doesn't have anything to do with how people who really love movies would like to experience them. I still miss real Imax--and hate Liemax--so if 8k is the way back to that, that's fantastic. There's nothing stupid about 8k, just as there's nothing stupid about a medium format camera. I heard these tiresome arguments 17 years ago when all the hacks were whining about being forced to switch to "stupid" HD because "no one will ever tell the difference on 25 inch screens from across the room--and lighting and lenses are much more important anyhow--and talent will never put up with how unflattering HD is..."

April 19, 2017 at 2:07PM

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J Robbins
410

Nailed it. The only time these cameras should be used are if they are going to be in DCP and show in a theatre in actual 4k. Not compressed for online and phone viewing smh

April 20, 2017 at 3:18AM

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Brad Watts
Filmmaker/Creative Director - Redd Pen Media
291

Well no, it's not. Cell phone viewing of video constitutes between 1 percent and 2 percent of total video viewing time, for those under 35. For most over 35 that number drops down to around zero. This iphone video watching thing is an urban myth.

That said most people use 1080 screens to watch TV and movies and ads. 4K still a small part of the market. Limitations of human vision are also a factor. Human eyes can see a HUGE difference between SD and 720P, a small one between 720 and 1080, and at comfortable seating distances, none between 1080 and 4K.

April 20, 2017 at 9:03PM

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Robert Ruffo
Director/DP
296

Got 8K footage for the first time just 2 days ago (we are doing Postproduction) The first thing we did is convert everything to 2K EXR because 8K is just plain stupid. It took us 6 Hours to copy everything off the Harddrive and a than another 11 HOURS or so to just convert it to something usable(all billable so I dont really complain) We dont usually get RED footage these days anymore, only on music videos and Indie stuff, so we dont have a rocket. And yea with this camera you HAVE to shoot at 8K if you want the full sensor ... stupid device nobody wants, just use a alexa/mini in 2K mode, it will look better and your postproduction will be WAY cheaper. I still do not understand why anyone would ever shoot anything on red anymore when there is a Alexa Mini...

April 19, 2017 at 3:44AM

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maybe you stupid and dont have any logic to understand this? Red can shoot 2K/4K prores only like alexa mini but why should i? Dude you are way stupid and you dont know camera specs yet you complain about it lol.

April 19, 2017 at 2:44PM

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But dont even think about trying that at "it's us" - that's gonna be a disaster :-D

April 19, 2017 at 2:58PM, Edited April 19, 3:09PM

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I bought an Epic-W and was really not looking forward to the 8K because of the crazy workflow. As it turns out, the workflow is extremely easy and the image is absolutely unreal!! Just because its an 8K camera, it doesn't mean you have to shoot in 8K. You can still shoot in 6K and maintain a great field of view. You can also shoot in 8K-4K ProRes in-camera making editing a breeze. The reason people shoot with RED is because we like the image, and its more affordable than an Alexa. I think 8K is way ahead of its time, but for people who do own an 8K camera, they are pretty much "future proofed" for years to come.

April 22, 2017 at 3:50PM, Edited April 22, 3:59PM

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Kaster Troy
Director, DP, Editor
838

This guy's entire argument is based on the idea that because electronic companies are pushing for higher resolutions, you should too. Well of course they are, they need to keep people buying new TVs.

I'm not against 8K. Personally I agree that capturing in the highest res you can comfortably work with is a good plan. If we had 8K or 24K cameras that shot to low cost media, computers that could work with it like a hot knife through butter and ample enough storage that saving it was like saving an mp3 on a 2TB hard drive, why wouldn't we shoot it? Even if we just finished our projects in 2k or 4K. But going out of your way right now to spend a ton of money on it if you're on a tight budget, I don't think it matters that much.
I don't buy his argument that in the future 1080p is going to look like 1982 computer display quality. At least not if viewed conventionally on a flat screen compared to 8K in the same manner. I think color space, dynamic range and 3D will be a bigger difference between today's content and future content. It will be those things that will make it look dated. Not so much the resolution.
Plenty of regular people are still fine with DVD resolution today. Not everyone in the public has eyes like a hawk, you have people who wear glasses and old people with weary vision and people who just don't care if they're watching a DVD or a UHD blu-ray. People who are non-techy. So I think we're at a point with resolution now where most people don't really care and aren't going to care 20 years from now either. They might buy into the marketing when buying a TV(because people often do) but I doubt most can really see the difference between good HD and even 4K UHD without walking up to the display. So if the content is good, I think that matters more, both now and 20 years from now.

April 19, 2017 at 3:45AM, Edited April 19, 3:45AM

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Mike Tesh
Pro Video / Indie Filmmaker
220

Even before scrolling down I knew there were going to be comments on this. Resolution is fun but does nothing to tell the story, whenever theres an article about crop factor I feel the same way, adds nothing to the story. We will dance up the resolution ladders but most content is not being consumed much above 1080. 8 times that downsampled will be very pretty though.

April 19, 2017 at 8:21AM

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Chris Hackett
Director, Director of Photography, Writer
892

Chris, scriptwriting (story) and acting are not 100% of film making. Otherwise cinematography would not be a profession and DPs would just make minimum wage. There is a technical aspect as well, that audiences do care about even though they may have an easier time talking about story in detail, which may mislead people like you into thinking that's all they care about.

April 20, 2017 at 9:08PM, Edited April 20, 9:08PM

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Robert Ruffo
Director/DP
296

Except discussions about technical factors like these should occupy the minority of considerations for a worthwhile project. Story is a crucial part of it, as are other issues (where't the light coming from, do we want it to feel organic, how can we adjust it with blocking, etc. etc.)

Resolution and camera choice should be debated for a bit, concluded with some tests and budget considerations, and then taken as a given as the DP really gets to work.

Sure it is important to be aware of the state of the art and the options available, but it's the easiest low-hanging fruit part of the art+craft which is why everyone jumps to comment on issues like these but don't have much to say when it comes to enhancing compelling characters through lighting and composition.

Even on technical issues - on forums with proper working DP's like Roger Deakins' it's far more about wading through the plethora lighting options for a specific look/shoot. Camera choice takes up like 5% of the bandwidth.

April 23, 2017 at 5:08AM

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Come on, can't you just switch to desired resolution in camera settings?
As for me, I would be happy with 8K. Finding unexpected framing options to cut to is a huge advantage for me (does not this adds to the story?).
I think it's an unestablished optimal workflow that scares people away, even from 4k.

April 19, 2017 at 8:29AM, Edited April 19, 8:32AM

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Ar
editor
86

If you want Raw and the full sensor instead of cropping in, you shoot 8K.

April 19, 2017 at 9:57AM, Edited April 19, 9:59AM

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Patrick Ortman
I tell stories. Sometimes for money. Sometimes, not.
569

That sucks and should be fixed, definitely. Hope RED will release a fw update soon.

April 19, 2017 at 11:53AM

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Ar
editor
86

That isn't how RED works, it's always been "you want lower rez, you crop into the sensor" with RED.

April 19, 2017 at 12:20PM

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Patrick Ortman
I tell stories. Sometimes for money. Sometimes, not.
569

Any DSMC2 Red camera (6k Weapon, Raven, Scarlet-W, Epic-W, Helium Weapon, 8k Vista vision Weapon) shoots 2K and 4K scaled prores and DnxHD (except the raven just does 2k prores, not 4k). That being said, I usually still shoot 6-8k r3d because the codec is more efficient and flexible than 4k Prores if going for a 4k finish, 2k prores is fine for lower budget post houses or places that aren't prepared for 4k. I wouldn't recommend cropping in very far since you're basically zooming in on your lenses's imperfections and the sensor's noise patterns. I hate most chromatic aberration personally.

April 19, 2017 at 3:10PM

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I keep hearing this idea, but unless the photography is shot with reframing in mind it's not likely to work. Depth of field and focus will be very different in a shot depending on framing. Having more pixels of an out of focus object doesn't help anyone.

April 19, 2017 at 3:30PM

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Joseph Slomka
Color Scientist - Acquisition through archival
447

Agreed, the idea has it's weaknesses

April 19, 2017 at 5:08PM

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Ar
editor
86

You can shoot 2K/4K prores LT nobody is forcing you for 8K.Just shoot 2K Prores LT.

April 19, 2017 at 5:31PM

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Oh, the things I'd like to add to this post. But I will say: for certain VFX applications, it IS very nice having the option to film on RED Weapon (not Epic-W). Day to day work? My own projects? Fuck no.

April 19, 2017 at 9:51AM

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Patrick Ortman
I tell stories. Sometimes for money. Sometimes, not.
569

There are practical limits of what matters. 35mm film was adequate for a hundred years; it's not like all the big budget productions switched to 65/70mm when it became available. The films you're shooting in 1080P won't be rendered obsolete when 8K is common.

Personally, I'd much rather shoot with a 2.6K Alexa than an 8K RED.

April 19, 2017 at 10:08AM, Edited April 19, 10:08AM

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"Adequate" is exactly how I'd describe cropped 35mm. I was watching "There Will be Blood" (shot on 35mm, projected in a 35mm theatre) and the otherwise beautiful landscape vistas fell apart through lack of resolution. In this age of one spectacle after another, it's sad that we're still hovering around this "adequate" quality. Studios spend hundreds of millions of dollars on every tentpole movie and consumers spend 50 dollars for two tix and some concessions--it's long, long, long, past time we moved past adequate. It's 2017--it's time we get something magnificent for our money. 8k (or higher) means the return of Imax, better than it ever was for a fraction of the cost. And in a few years, ultra high rez, ultra lightweight headsets will give you a beyond imax experience anywhere and any time.

April 19, 2017 at 2:15PM

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J Robbins
410

A first step into the right direction would be if we could retain the quality we have at the master stage. I mean, the only people who see the pristine quality of any film production, be it movies, commercials, music videos and so on, are we, the post production guys with uncompressed or very very slightly compressed material. The garbage that gets on air is far from what you could actually have.

And then those morons talking crap like: higher resolution = more bang for the buck. Sorry to tell you, but those extra pixels mean shit if the camera isn't fixed in concrete or has even the slightest amount of motion blur. That's why the average moron gets served landscapes and deserts on those 4k TVs in the electronics shops instead of Michael Bay movies. And btw. some people are such sheep that they actually believe that the crap fest from Hollywood gets better when you up the resolution.

April 19, 2017 at 3:10PM

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you can even forget on air for a moment. A 2k dcp has about 125Mb/s and looks excellent. Scaling to the same spatial details would be 500 Mb/s for proper 4k and 2 Gb/s for 8k projection.

This is a challenge for even the highest end SSD based systems, not to mention whatever your local cinema has

The more you compress using wavelet compression the more small details are lost.

April 19, 2017 at 3:34PM

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Joseph Slomka
Color Scientist - Acquisition through archival
447

Mariano, people often point out how the slightest bit of camera movement and soft focus result in rarely getting 4K pixels' worth of pristine information and deem 4K TVs a waste of money but never acknowledge the same would be true for 2K captured footage on 1080p displays.

Should we all be watching 720p TVs because of it? Wouldn't a person be just as much of a moron for owning a 1080p TV?

April 20, 2017 at 12:22PM, Edited April 20, 12:55PM

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Just more manufacturing hype .... technology for the sake of.... well... technology. 90% of the population consumes their HD at 720p and they are HAPPY...that is just the real world...ie: cable / dvd

April 19, 2017 at 10:23AM

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Perhaps, but in an UHD/HD world the overall quality of the footage trumps resolution. Higher bit rates and increased dynamic range are taking precedence. Our visual expectations are 2K cinematic images as the gold standard, and anything above that is a bonus. There are diminishing returns with each increase in resolution in the 4K era compared to video formats of the past.

April 19, 2017 at 11:40AM, Edited April 19, 11:51AM

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Marc B
Shooter & Editor
536

So tired of these conversations that they make me angry enough to write a post to say as such.

April 19, 2017 at 12:03PM, Edited April 19, 12:03PM

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Doug
214

Rabble Rabble!

April 19, 2017 at 1:01PM

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Indie Guy
699

Also where this guy is super wrong, HDR TVs are the future, not 8k TVs, The color depth of your masters is gonna start mattering more than the resolution. Get your 16 bit cameras ya'll!

April 19, 2017 at 1:01PM, Edited April 19, 1:01PM

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Indie Guy
699

Yes.

April 19, 2017 at 2:08PM

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J Robbins
410

Resolution has been and always will be the future. That's why I bought the Epic-W over the Raven and Scarlet-W and already started getting the jump to publishing 8K content to YouTube for when the world catches up.

April 19, 2017 at 3:17PM

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Aaron Nanto
Creator/Filmmaker
210

Aaron, I believe you will grow old and be disappointed. Red=Dead

April 19, 2017 at 6:24PM, Edited April 19, 6:24PM

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Bah. Red is doing some amazing things right now. The real impressive improvement is the Epic-W is the ipp2 color pipeline.

RED is very much alive and positioning it's self to stay around for a while. They are about more than just resolution.

April 19, 2017 at 6:30PM

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Joseph Slomka
Color Scientist - Acquisition through archival
447

Catches up to what?

At normal viewing 4k is more than sufficient for screen size. To shoot 8k expecting a much larger screen will involve composing shots very differently for the massive screen size, that would not translate to a current day deliverable.

To shoot 8k expecting that people will see more details on small screens will involve them sitting ever and ever closer to home screens, still necessitating that shots are composed differently, since you aren't expecting them to have the whole frame in a field of view.

8k is more useful for vfx and vr as traditional viewing habits won't apply.

April 19, 2017 at 6:28PM

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Joseph Slomka
Color Scientist - Acquisition through archival
447

And I see a lot of people talking about dynamic range and a lot of these cameras do have about 13-15 stops but they have more range in shadows then in highlights and they also don't handle highlights as well as film and the only one to come close is the Alexa. Until these companies figure out how to handle highlight roll off it won't matter how much perceived "range" there is because in some instances it's always going to clip.

April 20, 2017 at 3:21AM

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Brad Watts
Filmmaker/Creative Director - Redd Pen Media
291

No, it's not the future of filmmaking, unless we want to see the smallest pores on the skin of the actress.

Maybe for Imax.

April 20, 2017 at 11:16AM, Edited April 20, 11:16AM

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The problem with 8k right now is that it is more or less a specialty format.

From what the major studios and distributors that created the Digital Cinema Initiatives as of right now there is no set standard for 8k and theater wise... When everyone made the big jump to 3D and digital I am pretty sure they only bought 4k projectors... if that.

Streaming sites have just made the jump to 1440P and very occasionally UHD.
We just got Ultra Blue Ray...
Then there is the whole broadcast problems of not getting UHD content up now.

So as a delivery format, it is not quite economical... yet.

Because yes you could film everything in 8k. But then you would have to spend more time editing, post-processing, and getting CGI elements that are bigger and more costly. Sure the industry can pay for that gap, but why would they?

Do the cost really add to increased sales? Which that is generally, no.
The IMAX format is great but again there is only a limited amount of theaters that really have the correct projectors... There is only so many domes... Even then they will re-process the movie into 4k and distribute it everywhere else.

At the best right now 8k content is only going to hit people that can and want to spend a lot of extra time and money because they want the best. Which kind of ignores the majority of core consumers that impulsively consume.

So what is 8k good for? Cheating.

Need a shot to look insanely stabilized?
Need just one take of an entire scene with insanely stable panning and zooming?

April 21, 2017 at 3:13PM

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Kyle Dockum
Videographer and Editor
399

Cameras and screen-centric device manufacturers will continue pushing the march toward infinite resolution because their business models require planned obsolescence, if technology doesn't change, we stop buying hardware. Studios are focused on "bigger" and "better" because they think that will sell more tickets and popcorn, despite the fact that 2K is the cinema standard. Technology has become more of a selling point for video production service providers. But I believe creative filmmaker's time and resources are better spent on understanding immersive and interactive storytelling. The worldwide film and TV industries are still very much HD and only at the beginning stages of adopting UHD. The future is not necessarily more pixels but how you use those pixels, AR/VR/AI and even good ol' traditional cinema. Creativity can not be replaced by technology.

April 24, 2017 at 3:48PM, Edited April 24, 4:23PM

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Albert Sandoval
Director, Cinematographer, Producer
18